Martha – to be born again

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Thursday, May 1, 2014


HOW can you be born again? Nicodemus put this question to Jesus when Jesus said, ‘Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Then Nicodemus asked, ‘Do I have to go back into my mother’s womb?’ Jesus answered: ‘You have to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

This is the Christian baptism, different from the baptism of John the Baptist. The Catholic Church has instituted the sacrament of confirmation, because it has advised that the child should be baptized as soon as possible after its birth. When the child becomes an adult he/she must renew the baptismal vows because it were its parents and the sponsors of the baptism who made that promise in his/her behalf.

What does it really mean, to be born again and to renew your baptismal vows? Meister Eckhart, a theologian and mystic from the 13th century uses the example of Martha who is the sister of Mary. St Luke in his Gospel (Luke 10,38) narrates that Jesus visited their house. While Mary welcomed Jesus and sat down to talk to him, Martha was very busy preparing food for the visitor. She complained that Mary didn’t help her but Jesus reprimanded Martha saying that Mary had chosen the better part that was not to be taken from her.

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Eckhart’s comment on this scene is: our Lord Jesus Christ was received by a virgin who had become a woman. Martha was a virgin and to be a virgin means to be a human being who is empty from all strange images, as empty as she was when she was not yet born, living in a pristine condition. Before we came into existence we were already in God and living in God. During our journey through life we are constantly distracted by all kind of experiences, images and feelings that distort the reality that we are living in God.

We have to bring ourselves back into that state where we were already living in God. Our encounter with God is always a ‘virginal’ happening. The virgin must become a woman and a woman means somebody who in her ‘virginity’ receives God and makes God born again in herself with a gratitude that is fertile.

Another image may be used to illustrate this happening. The image of the light and the mirror. The mirror reflects the light that it has received but it doesn’t absorb that light. Thus the human being receives the light from God’s hand and he has to reflect this back to God who is born again in him.

Like I have said already before in one of my columns, we must read the Bible slowly and reflectively far from the images that surround us in our daily life. Those images must never become an absolute that control us but must always remain transparent so that we can encounter God who is there from the beginning. There is no such thing as a coincidence in our daily life. Everything that happens is under God’s control. I believe it is God orchestrating everything that happens to fulfill His plan for us. And He sends the Holy Spirit to guide our every step. All we need to do is trust and believe. When you are in a tight situation, trust that God is at work.

So also Martha and Mary met Jesus in his transparency, that means beyond his body, where God the Father is in control.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 01, 2014.

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